I am that hipster friend of yours who bullet journals.
I started … um … a while ago? (goes and looks at old pages) January of this year. I got interested when I read Keeping a Bullet Journal for Writers by Amanda Hackwith (which I’m pretty sure was originally published in January? But then, this year already seems like it’s been going on for three so whatever), and then googled and found …
Well. It’s a cult.
And that’s fine! It wouldn’t be the first cult I’ve joined! There was the Apple cult, and the Twin Peaks fandom! The cult of baked goods in cups! It’s totally fine!
It’s been an interesting experience, though, because I started the Bullet Journal after I’d already given up on organizer apps and pre-printed dayplanners. I’d gotten myself one of those ARC notebook systems from Staples and was DIY-planning like a fiend (like, to the point that half the accessories/paper were TUL brand from Office Max). Thus, as I watched the Bullet Journal video and read through the many, many pastel green and peach website articles, I knew that I wasn’t going to quite drink all the kool-aid.
I think I may be one of five people not using a Leuchtturm1917 dot grid notebook for my bullet journal at this point. Everyone uses these things. Like, you may start out in a half-used $1 composition notebook from Target, but after about a week everyone seems to cave and order the Leuchtturm. My (not BuJo-ing, just a notebook nerd like me) friend Debra pointed out on Facebook that they’re good notebooks, Laura, and she is right, but friends, $20 a pop is expensive and no matter how amazing this system is, there is no way I’d remember to order a new one from Amazon before the current one ran out. (Yes, yes, I could go the Moleskine route, but I have tried those notebooks before and I hates them, precious. I am a heathen, I know.)
In addition to this, I had finally committed to buying a nice, $16, ostensibly leather cover for my DIY planner …
… and I think the husband might have rolled his eyes right out of his skull had I dismissed the weeks of dithering about that decision and dropped $20 on another notebook. (Although I might very well try a Leuchtturm out as a writing notebook sometime. I’m not anti-Leuchtturm generally, just for a planner.)
So my Bullet Journal has removable, move-able pages, which means that I can yank something out if I make a huge mistake (again, heathen). Also, notes I make can be moved when appropriate, and kept together. I’m really not good with threaded notes. I need to be able to keep stuff together for my own sanity. But, that said, the thing the Bullet Journal made me aware of was that I was subcategorizing my life right down to the molecule, and that was also not good for my sanity. Now, instead of a “Zweeble” section with fifteen sub-sections and a lot of half-filled bits of paper, I have one big “Zweeble” collection with everything together, labeled and dated (and possibly threaded a little bit using dates), not much blank space, and I like it. A lot. I feel accomplished, looking at it.
And, having said that, the other thing I really like is that it’s neat. Tidy. It’s not pretty–there is no universe where I would or could list my weekly tasks/moods/life goals as a hand-drawn mandala. I have no time, I have no talent for drawing, and I need things slightly more linear than that. I’m also still not entirely sure what washi tape is, but I’m pretty sure I could mess that stuff up, too.
Neat is the best I can hope for. And, actually, neat was really what I wanted out of this whole thing. It was what felt lacking in the planner I was DIY-ing already, at least partly because of all those half-filled pages and lined paper. Graph paper is the bomb, y’all. You, too, can draw a nice square around the date on your to-do list if you do it on graph paper:
Yay, visual interest!
And the bullet journal also has a section (a “collection,” if you will–and you will, if you BuJo) for writing plans that’s actually working for me.
I’ve used it much differently for writing than I thought I would. I expected to keep story ideas and quotes and such in it, and I do, but I also have a running list of submissions, a calendar of what I need to do each day, “vague future plans,” a bucket list and a list of accomplishments (I have a general one of those, too, and honestly everyone should have a list of accomplishments somewhere; it’s a nice thing to do for yourself), notes on the “Plot Clock” because I want to try that out, a projects list with tasks and trackers, and the notes for creating an eBook on Scrivener because god knows I won’t remember how the next time I have to do it. I also had the outline for Dropping Slow in there, but I removed it once the story was done because I can!
Yeah, see, now you may be asking yourself (as I do quite often), Is she even really bullet journaling at this point?
I have no idea.
I don’t index or thread. I do have a daily, weekly, and future log (I never actually knew how to use those “future” pages on a pre-printed agenda, but now I’m jotting stuff down for six months from now, which is pretty cool). I don’t do as much actual journaling in it as I would like to–I’m not much for, like, gratitude or daily reflection, and I may need to rethink how I come at that aspect of the system. I track things (when I remember, four days later). I’m not the person who spends two hours on a Sunday with my mug of tea, my ruler, and my art pens, hand-drawing banners for my daily log at the oak table in my white, spacious, well-lit dining room while wearing a gorgeous oversized cream sweater because, seriously, a lot of these photos I see make me think that’s what everyone else is doing; whereas I’m hand-drawing little squares with the date in them with my Sharpie pen at my Target-bought dining table in my little pink house while wearing sweats and a tank top, ignoring the 8,000th Minecraft-mod video that’s playing in the background and wishing I could draw like all my artist friends …
(I do color code. So I am that person with ten Sharpie fine liners in her bag, but really, I am a giant pen nerd, so that’s not a BuJo thing, that’s me living my best life. #blessed)
But here’s what I do know–whatever I’m doing, it seems to be working. It may be a bastardized version of the bullet journal, but hey. Punk rock or something. The system is awesome because you can totally screw with it … or not.
And there you have it: Laura’s BuJo blog post. Brought to you by the google search “not entirely ugly but not super-fancy bullet journal layouts” and the letters … no, you know what, I’m not going there (but the giggling you hear right now is my husband and two best friends being twelve-year-olds in the distance). If you have been wondering whether or not to join this cult, I’m here to tell you that you can, in fact, only drink half a glass of the kool-aide, and it’s actually kind of fun.